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Spring operated 'Nelson' knife, New York, United States, 1845-1855

Eating a meal when you have lost an arm can be difficult. To help overcome the difficulties involved, this device – known as a Nelson knife – combines the knife and fork into one tool. It was named after Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), the British naval hero who lost his arm on 1 August 1798 during the Battle of the Nile. Knives of this type were regularly made available to disabled veterans and the design is still on offer today. Made by A A Marks, an American artificial limb maker, this example is released from its ornate case on a spring mechanism – not unlike a flick knife.

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Glossary: knife

A (usually) metal blade used as a cutting tool with usually one long sharp edge fixed rigidly in a handle or a hinged case.